The “Sooty Six” hardly need an introduction to environmental activists in Connecticut. The thermal power plants located in Bridgeport, New Haven, Middletown, Norwalk, Montville and Milford have come under increasing public scrutiny due to the pollution they cause.

But it now seems that the Sooty Six will be cleaning up their act. New legislation to reduce emissions will be enacted next spring, said Judith Joffe-Block ’04, the head of the Yale Green Corps. The emissions have led to excessive levels of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

“I am going to a steering committee meeting for the campaign, where I will learn more information about the state of both our platform for this year as well as the new legislation,” Joffe-Block said. “This steering committee will decide which pollutants need to be regulated more strictly in the legislation and how it will happen.”

Since 1997, the New Haven for Clean Air organization, a coalition of the Yale Green Corps, grass-roots environmental groups and community members, has been calling for a cleanup of the high levels of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide produced by the plants. This change would parallel the emission standards of newer plants in the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments. The regulations, being put into effect in January 2002, are the first of two phases of sulfur dioxide reductions.

Brooke Suter, Connecticut’s program director for Clean Water Action, said the coalition will continue to call for the full on-site cleanup of sulfur dioxide.

“We are grateful that the hard work of citizens across the state has resulted in this first phase of air pollution reductions,” Suter said. “However, after the initial reduction, the Sooty Six can still pollute at higher levels than newer plants, and citizens continue to demand that Gov. [John G.] Rowland require full on-site cleanup of the plants.”

NRG Energy Inc., a Minnesota-based energy provider, owns four of the Sooty Six plants. Lisa Bader, spokesperson for NRG, said the company was proud of its efforts to improve local and regional air quality and the role it plays in generating reliable, affordable electric power.

“Clean air is important to NRG,” Bader said. “Our plants operate far below the limits set by all state and federal air emission regulations, including stringent new limits recently adopted by the Connecticut [Department of Environmental Protection].”

The campaign to clean up the power plants, then known as the “Filthy Five,” began in December 1997 when the New Haven for Clean Air protested the pollution created by the plants.

Last year, a bill aimed at cleaning up the Sooty Six passed through the state House of Representatives but failed to pass in the state Senate by one vote. In May 2000, Rowland issued an executive order to reduce the emissions.

Once the executive order was issued, the DEP held a series of meetings to address Rowland’s proposals. The regulations, once finalized, went to the Regulations Review Committee where they were passed in December 2000 and will be put in effect this January.